Mile High City
Having read the forecast predicting 100F or thereabouts today, wearing fur was the last thing on our minds.
We set out early then, hoping to do what we could before it got too hot to think. The 16th St Mall was pretty empty at 9.45am, suggesting that Denver wakes up slowly.
We were at the American Museum of Western Art when it opened then, surprised to find a smallish though elegant home for what we'd imagined to be an extensive gallery.
So sad to find photographs were not permitted inside, particularly as the online offerings are few and far between as well. So, I'll do my best to describe what we found inside: three floors of art from the collection of Phil Anschutz whose name my hero associated with railroads. That would explain the railroad engines sitting on tracks in front of the library shelves in the parlour - because when the elevator doors opened on the first floor, they opened not onto a gallery but into an elegant sitting room. The docent noticed our surprise and explaned that yes, there was a parlour on each floor of the museum. How interesting!
The galleries were filled with the most wonderful collection of art that seemed to sum up our road trip beautifully. Here were the paintings of Albert Bierstadt, who created grand images of the American West in the mid to late 19th century.
I don't believe the original of this painting of the Oregon Trail by Bierstadt was anything like as colourful as this reproduction I snagged online, but I felt sure we'd come across it along the way on a variety of museum and visitor centre walls.
Here too were a couple of paitings by Dean Cornwell, known to Mary because of his works in th LA Public Library. This is a fragment of The Gold Rush, painted in his distinctive style.
Many of the paintings in the collection had a connection with the railroad in some way, either featuring a railroad in some way or because they had been commissioned by a railroad company for advertising or promotional purposes.
We loved every minute of our time in the gallery, enjoying the conversation with the friendly staff and of course, finding so much to interest us hanging on the walls of every floor. I wish I could share more but sorry, you will just have to pay a visit yourself!
Denver was waking (and warming) up now and a short walk away, we found our next stop.
The Colorado Capitol building had caught my eye when we drove into the city yesterday, the bright gold dome shining out through the gaps in the buildings around it.
Inside was rather less spectacular. The interior was suitably ornate, but lacked distinction, I thought. There was plenty of brass for the maintenance people to polish but hardly any artwork and not that much to celebrate the state or its people.
We joined Blake for a guided tour, starting with the Women's Gold Tapestry. He began by pointing out a couple of significant figures included in the work before moving along rather swiftly. Had I but realised that this was one of only two artworks we'd see, I might have asked a question of two just to linger longer there.
We gazed up at the somewhat plainer dome than we'd seen of late before going straight to look at the seven panels depicting the history of the state.
I had time to snap six of them, but the other three were hidden by the group standing and listening. Before I had chance to move around to take a photograph, Blake was already moving on, this time to the next floor. Be quick...
We were permitted to view the House from a small roped off area at the back, from where I admired the clear glass windows which gave a light and airy feel to the chamber.
The Senate, whilst somewhat smaller, had a similarly airy feel to it, but viewed though glass screens at the back, it was hard to spot any distinctive design features or identify any of the figures in the stained glass panels.
Stepping out into the rotunda, we learned of the 43 Presidential portraits* and of the artist who had painted 41 of them. ( A crowdfunding exercise is currently underway for a portrait of #45.)
* Grover Cleveland was President for two separated terms, but has just the one portrait
And that was that. With the advice that the tour would end up on the balcony of the rotunda, a climb of another hundred or so steep steps from here, we retired gracefully and offered our thanks. The good thing was that this wasn't our first State Capitol tour, for if it had been, I doubt that we'd have bothered visiting any others. A half hour in total and I've only just now discovered that we didn't see the mile high steps! Oh well...
We might have only spent half an hour in the Capitol but we spent the rest of the day in the very interactive History Colorado.
Here was a temporary exhibit about baseball, which was attracting a large number of fans, though there were just two names I recognised. Joe DiMaggio was one of them...and the other? I'll let you guess!
Across the way was another temporary exhibit which was attracting attention.
No sooner had we stepped inside than we found a link to our road trip! That was before we spotted the I-spy list for younger visitors and found the zombie, the ET figure, the tunnel troll and Bigfoot...
The exhibit of 100 items for the Centennial of the state was particularly interesting I thought. These highly curated exhibitions are always good for casual visitors such as us, distilling the content of the story into a bite-sized chunk. Who knew that Crocs are a Colorado product? And how pleasing was it to be reminded of John Denver, too. Of course, there were more serious exhibits in there too, such as examples of ancient pottery and some fine Indian artefacts.
The A-Z of Denver exhibition had some other things we'd forgotten about. This one was for the letter B.
Most memorable was the last section we came to, featuring three views of Colorado: the original settlers and the Mesa Verde, farming and the dust bowl and the contemporary mountain life and resultant environmental concerns. We learned of concerns regarding population growth in Colorado and of water shortages resulting from lower levels of snowfall too. Of all, the "dustbowl demonstration" was truly scary and definitely not something I'd want to experience personally.
So yes, we have had a lovely day, filled with so many interesting things. We've re-acclimatised to city life and are glad that we chose to spend a couple of days here in Denver, where the city offers so many things to do and see.
It promises to be cooler tomorrow, but I still don't think we're going to need the fur.
PS After I'd posted my blog last evening, we heard of the tornado in St Louis and I can honestly say, a cold shiver went down my back. Thankfully, it was nothing like as bad as had been predicted, but enough for me to feel very thankful indeed.